How to Retro Video Game: A Guide

It has never been easier to find retro video games to play

Culture is cyclical, so whatever was once old becomes new again. As is the case for fashion, so is the case for entertainment. If there is one thing that has become cool again lately, it’s retro video games. The Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo are now elder statesmen of a massive industry. Though there was a time where everyone clamored for the newest, sharpest graphics, that is no longer how it works. 8-bit music is popular again, and folks are now making tons of new 16-bit games for purchase. With this resurgence, one may ask how to play retro video games? Here is a list of 10 different ways to play retro video games to get you on your way.

*Warning* There are affiliate links in this article! Gotta Make that Chedda!

Original Console

All of these wonderful games started somewhere, so why not go to the source? As a collector of things, I love to find great deals on vintage items. Video game consoles are no exception. There are some risks to playing your retro video games this way. You are going to be relying on aging tech and there is no guarantee that it will work. An original NES is over 30 years old at this point! With that in mind, it is still neat to own the original and there can be some value in such things. During my writing for GoCollect I have talked about investment opportunities for the NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis and others. If you do go this route, remember that you will have to purchase the games as well, and as I have written about, that can get pricy. Below are some links to eBay to see what the prices look like for some of the most popular retro consoles.

Classic Consoles

Nintendo Classic

The emergence of “Classic” consoles in recent years has provided easy access to retro video games at home. These little beauties have games preloaded onto them allowing you to plug and play at home. Many consoles have been converted to this format and it is great for playing at home. They are still being produced so you will not have to get into any bidding wars on eBay or elsewhere. Since the games are preloaded, it also takes away spending even more money purchasing the individual games. It is still an investment as these consoles are not always cheap, and if they are in short supply as the Super Nintendo version was, the price can jump pretty quickly. With all that in mind, this is a new item you are purchasing, which means you will not have to worry about the equipment not working. If it doesn’t work, just take it back! Here are some of the consoles that have “Classic” versions:

Internet Archive

Internet Archive Logo

Internet Archive is a national treasure. It is a great place to find live concert recordings, old movies, archived web pages and so many more glorious things. One thing that it is not as well known for is its massive amount of free to play games. They have everything from console games to DOS and Windows games. The selection is truly massive and you can play them right in your browser using their on site emulator. Once I discovered this, I was hooked. There are so many games from my childhood on here, I just couldn’t resist. The best part? It’s all free to play!

Internet Archive Game Libraries

Emulators and ROM’s


Don’t want to use the browser based emulator on Internet Archive? Then just download your own emulators and ROM’s. There is some risk to this, as you need to make sure that you are downloading files from a trusted site. Game files from the olden times are incredibly small, so you could conceivably download thousands of games and not lose much sleep over the lost hard drive space. Gamulator is one of the most well known and trusted sites to download emulators and ROMs.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi circuit board

Raspberry Pi takes the “Classic” console approach and puts it on steroids. Instead of just being packaged with 30 or 40 of the most popular games for a single console, Raspberry Pi allows you to put thousands of games from many different consoles onto the same device. The initial investment will be more than the classic consoles, but due to the massive amount of games that these can hold, it will pay off very quickly. There are also folks who convert these into arcade console setups, allowing you to play all of your favorite games from a sweet, custom arcade machine. Check out Raspberry Pie setups here:

Build Your Own Kit

Retro-Naut Prebuilt Kits

Premade Retropie consoles on eBay

Classic Game Bundles

Since home consoles have existed, the classic game bundle has as well. As CPU’s become more and more powerful and hard drive space becomes more plentiful, it has become easier to dump a bunch of old games onto a new machine. This is nothing new, but since old game files are so small, it is easy to fit a bunch of games onto a CD or memory stick. Usually it will be around the same amount of games that you would get with a “Classic” console, but for much cheaper. Obviously you need to have the right console to play whichever bundle you pick up, but I know smart readers such as yourselves knew that.


Conversions of old games to mobile was bound to happen. Really, the biggest obstacle is figuring out how to have a controller set up on an iPad or Android phone that still gives that retro gaming experience. Many great games have been ported to App form including Chrono Trigger and the entire Final Fantasy series. Sorry, I’m an RPG nut, so those are the first examples that came to mind. You can find App conversions in the Apple App Store or the Google Play store to name a few places. If you are using a computer instead of mobile, then you may want to look into the next sites to find your classic gaming fix.

App Store

Google Play Store


STEAM logo
GOG Logo

These gaming platforms are not just for cutting edge and new games. They also host tons of retro video games. The benefit to purchasing games from these two digital gaming stores is that you will be getting a game that is explicitly formatted to run on your computer as is. That means no emulator or ROM downloads and no counting on a browser emulator, which can be cumbersome. The games are usually fairly inexpensive and you will own them. They will also be optimized to run on current machines, so you can avoid all the mess of downloading, installing, and figuring out how to use and emulator.



Classic Arcade Cabinets

Retro Arcade game

The rise of the affordable single game home arcade cabinet is a new thing. They are much smaller than the original cabinets, which were pieces of furniture in themselves. These are neat but they do have limited play value. There are cabinets that offer multiple games, but the selection is usually small. Other choices on this list offer a much greater variety of games, but what is fun about this choice is the delivery of that classic arcade experience. Mixed with surprising affordability when compared to some others on the list, classic arcade cabinets are a great way to finish furnishing that basement game room.

Dream Arcades Custom Cabinets

Arcade 1up Cabinets

Video Game Cabinets on eBay

Retro Gaming Firestick

Want to have all of your games on one access point that you can plug right into your TV? Look no further than the Amazon Retro Gaming Firestick. Due to the small size of older game files, current tech allows thousands of retro games to be stored on something the size of a thumb drive. You would need to have a smart TV as this is a USB based option, but since that is most TV’s on the market nowadays, it is not that big of a hurdle. A retro gaming firestick allows you to plug and play your favorite retro video games right on your TV at home. There are some steps involved in using this approach as you need to create the environment for it. Amazon does not offer preloaded retro game firesticks, but you can create your own. Here is a good tutorial:

How to Install Emulators for FireTV

The return of retro video games has been a blast to see. I’ve written about the rise in value on the collectors market for games, but playing those games is what makes them so fun. For a while there was a such a fascination with pushing hardware boundaries that everyone seemed to forget the value in good story and good gameplay. That is what retro video games were about and they are a blast to play. Now that you know how to play retro video games, go on out and get your game on!


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